4 Ways This Functional Medicine Doctor Worked To Rebuild Her Gut Health After Taking Antibiotics
Almost exactly four hours after eating leftover sushi one Saturday night, I found myself with an awful case of diarrhea. By Sunday evening, it progressed to be full-on bloody and frequent, with pain throughout my abdomen.
Concerned, I went to my local ER. After a CT scan showing that my entire colon was inflamed, and my appendix was normal, I was passed off to gastroenterology. By Monday afternoon was prepped for an emergency colonoscopy.
After the procedure, the gastroenterologist told me she thought I had C. difficile (or Clostridium difficile) colitis, a bacterium that can cause diarrhea and colon inflammation. I promptly started on my first antibiotic.
Fast-forward three days, and I'd received IV hydration at home, seen the osteopath, and was still having bloody diarrhea and pain. Then, I got started on two different antibiotics. Thankfully, these did the trick, and the blood stopped within two days, and the diarrhea within three.
While grateful for the remedy, I also knew that research suggests taking antibiotics can alter the human microbiome. I imagined my gut to be a newly blank slate, like a newborn's, and decided that the most important thing at that point was to focus on rebuilding my strength and crafting a healthy, balanced microbiome. Using my experience as a functional medicine doctor, here are the measures I chose to take to help support my gut:
I took things slow.
After a serious illness, it can take weeks for energy stores and vitality to recover. As I was allowing my gut to recover, I didn't rush back into exercise or put too much strain on my body as a whole. For anyone getting back into fitness after a similar situation as mine, I'd recommend starting with about half the workout intensity for half the time you're used to, until you feel your strength returning.
I built up healthy gut flora with probiotics.
Most antibiotics unfortunately take a scorched-earth approach and can wipe out a number of the good bacteria that live inside your gut—also known as probiotics. The impact of a serious illness like the flu can also take a significant toll on your microbiome. To help rebuild a healthy gut, try taking a probiotics supplement, which can aid in replenishing the good bacteria in your microbiome.*
I also prioritized more fermented or cultured foods with natural probiotics into my diet. One of my personal favorites is unsweetened yogurt or nondairy yogurt (my go-to is from Coconut Cult) twice a day.
I advanced my diet strategically.
While being mindful about which foods I was putting into my body to support my gut, I also took into account how I was nourishing myself. Your stomach muscle isn't as used to being expanded after being sick. To accommodate for this, I focused on limiting my portion sizes, chewing food completely, and eating slowly. I also made sure to stop eating when I felt full, to avoid overtaxing my system.
I tried supportive treatments.
As a functional medicine practitioner, I highly recommend seeing an osteopath, acupuncturist, meditation coach, or energy healer after an illness and antibiotics. Steam, Epsom salt baths, and saunas can also be helpful in supporting recovery.
Recovery can feel challenging. Just remember an illness doesn't define you. You were strong, and you'll be strong again. Take it one day at a time, and be patient with your recovery. Seize this as an opportunity to nourish and replenish your gut in the best way possible.
Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA is a functional medicine gynecologist. She received her M.D. from Tufts University in 2000 and has been practicing functional medicine since 2009. After all these years, she is still passionate about helping women optimize their health and their lives. There are so many different challenges in a woman’s life: work, home, relationships, spirituality, health, and they all matter! While her credentials allow Trubow a solid medical backdrop to help women achieve vitality, her own health journey has also inspired and supported her methods of care.
Through her struggles with mold and metal toxicity, Celiac disease, and a variety of other health issues, Trubow has developed a deep sense of compassion for what her patients are facing. When she's not helping patients in her practice (5 Journeys) you can find Trubow alongside her husband and their four kids, creating a beautiful ecosystem in our yard that provides nourishment to both our body and soul. She also co-authored the book Dirty Girl: Ditch the Toxins, Look Great, and Feel Freaking Amazing!